If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious or complex health condition or if you’ve received a recommendation for surgery, your next step should be to consider seeking a second opinion from a physician who has experience diagnosing and treating your condition. A second opinion is an important tool that can help you avoid an incorrect diagnosis or inappropriate treatment. But what steps should you take after you’ve gotten that second opinion?
The answer depends on whether the second opinion confirms your diagnosis and treatment plan or if the second physician made a different diagnosis and/or suggested other treatment options. Even if your second opinion confirms your diagnosis, there may be other appropriate treatment options, for example non-surgical treatments or minimally invasive approaches, that the first physician did not suggest. If both physicians recommend the same treatment, think about which physician has more experience and expertise with the treatment, as well as if his or her approach to patient care is a good fit for you.
What should you do if you receiving a conflicting second opinion?
If the diagnosis or treatment recommendation you receive as a result of the second opinion is different than the first, you may want to seek a third opinion, especially if the physicians’ recommendations vary a great deal. As part of the decision making process, you need to gather information from both physicians so you can make an informed decision.
- Ask both physicians what information led them to their diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Find out what scientific evidence their decision is based on. Is it based on the most recent research and standards of care? Is it based on their experience treating patients with a similar diagnosis? How much experience does the physician have treating this condition and performing this treatment? What are his or her success and complication rates for that treatment?
- Ask the physicians to put their opinions in writing. Having the complete information from both physicians can help you better compare their recommendations. A health advisor can also be helpful with this process, attending appointments with you to gather information, take notes, and ask questions.
- Find out the risks and benefits of each recommended treatment option. Ask each physician what potential risks or side effects their recommended treatment may cause. Also ask what the benefits of this treatment are. Is recovery quicker? Does the treatment achieve the same results as another option, but with fewer or less serious side effects? Does the treatment have a higher success rate than other options?
- Share the other physician’s recommendations. Ask each physician to review the other’s recommendation and discuss with you how and why their opinion is different.
In addition to considering the information provided by both physicians, it’s also important to consider you own wishes and goals. Depending on the condition you face and how advanced it is, there may be some treatments that you would prefer not to undergo if the side effects are severe or the likelihood of the treatment’s success is low.